Specializing in what he calls “Chuco pop,” El Paso artist Juan Ornelas uses bold colors and symbols to illustrate his paintings. They often stop people in their tracks, which is exactly what he’s going for as a University of Texas at El Paso grad who earned bachelor’s degrees in marketing, communications and political science.
“My educational background comes out in my art I think; I’m really influenced by advertising and old posters – stuff back in the day in France with Toulouse-Lautrec,” Ornelas said.
Although Ornelas pays close attention to socio-political issues on a local and national level, such topics haven’t quite been reflected in his artwork yet.
“I try not to really get into that,” Ornelas said. “Maybe in the future, but at this point I’m just really trying to let the viewer interpret the paintings any way they want. But when I have to be political, I will be.”
For him, art has been a healthy escape from the troubles of adulthood.
“It brought that creativity that I really needed, and then it just gives me a moment to focus on one thing,” Ornelas said. “It’s a very therapeutic thing, and I really am an advocate for everyone finding their art – whatever it is, be it poetry, be it writing or making movies – because it’s a way for your soul to really breathe.”
Speaking of focusing, “Juano Focused Chaos” is the name for his social media accounts.
“I use triangles a lot usually to imply chaos,” Ornelas said.
But chaos is not the only subject of Ornelas’ work; he’s also big on animals and their resilience.
“I have a big passion for animals of the desert because they survive and they’re able to face harsh realities,” Ornelas explained.
At one point, Ornelas was commissioned by a leader from the Tigua Indian Reservation to illustrate a piece that symbolized the harmony between him and his girlfriend. In the illustration on the top right, the turtle represents his client while the humming birds symbolize his girlfriend.
In the Coloring Corner illustration on page 5, Ornelas played with the ancient Chinese concept of koi fish going against the rapid current and becoming dragons. Instead, Ornelas wanted the fish to go with the flow and accept its fate. Skulls and “Pop” labeled lollipops are a constant in Ornelas pieces – a nod to Mexican-American and pop culture, respectively.
Most recently, the Chuco pop artist has been working on creating vintage-inspired sculptures from objects found at thrift sores.
On Oct. 27, the same day as What’s Up and DeadBeach Brewery’s coloring night, Ornelas will also have an exhibit along side Eddie “Dead Boy” Marquez (who we featured in August) at the Station Urban Offices. Ornelas said he looks forward to hopping around to both events – playfully symbolizing focused chaos.